Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to deal as facilitator with an unsafe group?

It is five minutes before finalizing a Team Workshop on how to renew the approach of its service delivery for social work to the community. Sofar the group has created an 'inspirational vision' and has worked out the strategies. You feel that everything is okay. The group looks involved and everybody is participating. The waiter from the restaurant is
informing the group, that the snacks are ready. You ask the group on what actions it should take the next 6 weeks to get the first strategies moving. Then, suddenly, the team leader takes charge of the conversation. He mentions 10 action points, including names of responsible people and deadline dates. The group looks shocked and intimidated. It is silent for a while. I check if everybody agrees. It remains silent. People nodd with a breath it is okay. The team leader says it is time to go to the restaurant. The food gets cold. We can evaluate up there!
During the snack I am checking informally participants' feelings about the meeting. It was okay! But when I ask for suggestions to improve, a few tell me in confidence that it had been better if the teamleader had not been there! We did not feel safe to express our feelings and sentiments!

'Unsafe groups!' It happens me a number of times every year, when I am facilitating workshops. Whenever possible I try to create a safe environment making people feel welcome. I initiate a number of relaxing exercises and involve everybody. But what to do if people do not feel safe? Is it about me as facilitator? Or is there somebody in the group people do not feel safe? 'Unsafe groups' was one of the main topics discussed during a IAF-Benelux experience exchange meeting in the Hague on the 21st June, 2011.
The 'Facilitation Styles of Heron' are a helpful tool in judging situations on how to deal with unsafe groups. The facilitator can choose for a hierarchical approach. He can take charge of the discussion. In case of the example, I could have asked the Team Leader to leave the room for a while, giving space the group to discuss the necessary action steps. Hereafter, the group could have presented these to the Team Leader and asked for feedback. I could also have asked the Team Leader during the preperation of this workshop to consider 'not to participate' or to 'participate partly' in this meeting in order to create safety. Of course a promis of the Team Leader is necessary that the input from the team is used for the implementation of the strategies. A risk of the hierarchical approach is that it might disempower the group.
The facilitator could either have choosen for a co-operative approach. In case of the example, I could have confronted the Team Leader with the body language and the energy in the group. I could have said; "Do I hear that you agree with the proposed action points of the Team Leader? " If people from the group would have responded 'yes', I could have asked "How come I observe you are not enthousiastic? Is that right?" In this case the Team Leader is confronted with the fact, that there is 'no acceptance' from the group. It provides space for both the Team Leader and the group to discuss the situation as it is....... It could have provided space to skip the snacks in the restaurant and to discuss the situation created further!
Eventually I chose for the autonomous approach. I asked the group to come up with action points, giving space to the Team Leader to take charge of the conversation while nobody took the opportunity to show courage and challenge the situation. Another method I could have applied under the autonomous approach is 'to walk out of the room and leave it up to the group to decide!' The group is left alone with the Team Leader and now confronted with their full potential and responsibility. In that case it can create space for the group to respond since they can express emotions, which they would not present in the presence of a facilitator (they hardly know or have seen a couple of times). A risk of the autonomous approach is that nothing gets achieved or conflict underneath is provoked.
Depending on the situation the facilitator has different options to guide and assist the group in getting better team performance. The 'Facilitator Modes of Heron' (Hierarchichal, Co-operative, Autonomous) are a helpful tool in defining ways on how to deal with unsafe groups. Heron wrote an interesting 'Guide to Facilitation'. On the 23rd September 2011 the International Association of Facilitators (IAF-Benelux) is organising an interesting Conference with the theme "Facilitator as (2nd) Profession". During this conference you will gain and learn about many more interesting experiences and developments in facilitation.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making the unconscious conscious in facilitation and training

"For years I was the chairman of a working group; I guided young children and organised workshops with youngsters; I assisted youngsters with home work classes and language training. However, it was all done intuitively. We never got didactical methods on how to guide people and groups in their learning proces. However, it worked. I had a passion to do it and had a good relationship with the youngsters in stimulating their personal growth." These were some of the introductions participants shared during the training 'Basic Facilitation Methods' attended by Development Professionals. The training was organised at ICCOenKerkinActie & Togetthere on the 16th and 17th June, 2011 and was led by Simon Koolwijk

Many people already have a lot of skills and knowledge in teaching and transfering knowledge, but are not aware about their capacities. The 'KOLB' learning cycle is an excellent tool in making the unconscious capacities conscious. Eighty percent of training, is composed of facilitation. The trainer asks questions and stimulates people to dig into their tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the practical and intuitive knowledge people gained through working and life experience. ' Direct experience' is the first phase of the KOLB learning cycle. People become aware of the topic by answering questions. During the second stage, 'Reflecting on the experience' people take a step back and analyse and discuss what they did in the first phase.
During the third phase, 'Generalization of the experience', the unconscious is made conscious by giving significance and meaning to what was discussed in the first two phases. This is the stage where the trainer adds theoretical knowledge or models to what the group discussed. In the fourth stage, 'Applications' the participant applies what was learned in the third stage. The participant has gained 'Conscious Competence'.
According to the brainlearning principles transfer of knowledge is likely to be successfull when:
The trainer makes use of the context (worksituation) or workhistory of the trainee. 80 - 85 % of the training is based on asking questions and facilitation. Only 15 - 20 % is based on transfering information from the trainer to the audience.
The trainer creates a positive learning environment and builds on successes from the past, applies appreciative inquiry.
The trainer creates a safe environment, where people feel safe and comfortable. Space and time for informal contacts is essential. The most practical and valuable information is shared during the informal moments. The formal moments are the platform for the starting process of new behaviour and inspiration.

Other important and crucial factors are the willingness and eagerness of the participants to change. Drive, passion, curiousity and energy are important pré-conditions for the participant to adapt new behaviour. Practical assignments applying the lessons learned within 6 weeks after the training are essential in embedding learning. In case the participant does not get the opportunity of its employer to apply the lessons, than the trainee should have the drive and create the opportunity to apply the lessons. Otherwise valuable lessons get lost. The key challenge for a facilitator or coach, is to get the group or participant into the 'drivers seat'. LSA (Listening, Summarising and Asking in-depth questions) is a helpfull tool to dig deeper into people assumptions about changing and learning. The moments people show emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear and enthousiasm, the facilitator addresses and checks this behaviour and asks what is underneath. Whenever people feel strong emotions, knowledge or lessons sustain.
NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and the book from Anthony Robbins , the Unlimited Power, describes the essential elements what makes people successfull in learning and performing.

The learning theory from Professor Sugata Mitra is a fascinating one. Through the project 'Hole in the Wall', he made computers available for young people in slum areas. Within three days the youngsters became capable in working with the computer without any assistance from trainers or teachers. Sugata Matra tries to show through this project, that people have capacitiets within their group to solve complex problems and make things work with limited outside assistance. The role of the trainer or facilitator is to ask the people challenging questions, which make them active instead of wondering 'Why should I learn this?'.
See video:

Another model for learning is the "Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill". This theory was developed at the Gordon Training International Institute by Noel Burch in the 1970s. The model suggests that individuals are unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognise their incompetence they become conscious of their incompetence. As they recognise their incompetence and have a strong desire to acquire the skill, they get conscious competence. It takes average 6 weeks to adapt new behaviour and it takes more than 10.000 hours to master a profession. This is the stage the skill has become a 'second nature'. The is the stage of 'unconscious competence'.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Capacity development: NGOs versus Church Development Organisations

What makes a capacity development intervention with a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) different from one with a Church Development Organisation? It was one of the questions, which was discussed during the training Capacity Development with Organisations on the 7th and 10th June, 2011 at the Hendrik Kraemer Institute (HKI). The training was led by Simon Koolwijk and attended by participants from ICCOenKerkinActie and Mensen met een Missie.

The following eleven differences can be identified:
1. A NGO has more autonomy and flexibility to decide on how to develop their capacities at Human Resource (HRD), Organisational (OD) and Institutional (ID) level. A development department within a church is more dependent on approval and authorisation from church leaders. This makes the development process in the capacity development intervention slower.
2. Sensitive issues, taboes and conflicts are more easy to discuss in NGOs. Churches generally have an idealistic and spiritual mission. Through this conflicts can longer stay untouched within an organisation, because the organisation is working towards a spiritual aim and that is considered always to be good. Eventually this can contribute to extreme and explosive conflicts.
3. Injustice within a church is generally a topic not open for discussion. Many churches belief their organisational culture is fair and sincere. For NGOs the issues of injustice amongst staff members can be discussed more easily.
4. Church leaders coming from Nothern countries generally are modest and belief in participatory approaches. The religious leaders from Sounthern institutions are generally more authorative and do not leave much space for discussion in their organisation. NGOs worldwide are generally open minded for discussion about organisational development within their organisation.

5. NGOs generally have a transparent financial management system. They are obliged to publish annual financial reports including balance sheets and income-expenditure statements. Church organisations tend to have a less transparent financial system, including accountability responsibilities. The church is considered as a faith based institution and therefore members feel less commitment to make financial systems transparent. The church is from inside considered as a sincere institution.
6. The church has deeper roots and is more embedded at the grassroots level in the society. Through their structure, church development programmes can more easily reach and support poor and deprived groups than NGOs. NGOs are generally managed by well educated people and intellectuals. For them it takes much more effort to get their service delivery effectively implemented at the grassroots level.
7. The church is promoting and preaching spiritual norms and values. NGOs generally focus on support and service delivery. Therefore poor people are consulted in decision making processes about improving the quality of service delivery in programmes and projects. Churches tend to belief their practices, norms and values are right and fair. Therefore, they are less open minded to involve their beneficiaries in adjusting their programmes and projects. It is a tendency a capacity development advisor has to be aware of.
8. Usually Church based organisations observe mistakes outside their organisation. Generally they tend to have a 'blind eye' about internal mistakes. NGOs are generally more open to discuss 'mistakes'and their 'failures' within the organisation. For a capacity development advisor it is more easy to stimulate a learning organisation within a NGO. An organisation that is not willing to learn, will never be a learning organisation!

9. Staff members working with Church Development organisations generally are more committed with their work than staff with NGOs. Through their value based orientation, staff feel more connected to the values of the church and therefore have more commitment in their work.

10. Staff members working with Church Development organisations are mostly coming from the target group. They speak the language of the local people and understand their dilemma's and needs. Staff from NGO's are generally well educated people, some of them coming from elites in the society. They feel less connected with their target groups.

11. Church Development organisations are generally more sustainable organisations. They have a longer time span in implementing projects, and they continue to work and continue their service delivery whatever what happens. This creates more trust with the target groups and they feel more committed to get involved with the work of the Church Development organisations. NGOs generally have a shorter time span and their projects most last a couple of years. Therefore, it is more difficult for them to build trust with the target groups.

The differences between Church Development Organisations and NGOs have been published in the Handbook 'Religion and Development - Practitioners Guide'.

A capacity development advisor has to act cautiously and diplomatically in both types of organisations. Six months are at least needed to build relationships. By getting to know each other informally, a capacity development advisor can identify the key people in the organisation who are willing to change the organisation for the better; the so called 'change agents'. After having identified them, the next challenge is to play an assisting role as a capacity development advisor to make them some steps further in strengthening the organisation.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another compilation of ten english spoken humoristic video's

After more than 80 years of film history, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are still fun to watch. Youtube provides a lot of humoristic video's from the thirties in the last century up to till today, which can be used for trainings to create fun, laughther or to do energizers or games. Following is a compilation of humoristic video's.
2. Toomy Cooper - The bag and the egg
3. Charley Chaplin - Coffee drinking - Funny
4. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
Kneesy, Earsy, Nosey

Finger widdle
8. Archie Bunker - All in the family - Archie Bunker on vegetarianism
9. Muppets show - Derek and Clive are muppets
10. Benny Hill - El show de Benny Hill

If you would like to add some more humortistic or funny english spoken video's, please feel free to leave a link at reactions.